Making Short Sessions Count

It’s that time of year when not only are the nights really starting to pull in, but postmen also get really busy helping Father Christmas deliver all of his presents! Because of this I have to try and squeeze short after work sessions in on local waters, where I can, plus choose what to fish for on my day off, which conditions will often dictate.

First off I was exploring a small river for big roach. A different river to where I normally fish, but one where I’ve lost a big roach before. Unfortunately, we’d just had our first frost of the winter, so the fishing was slow. Trotted bread eventually brought me a few chub between 2 and 3lbs, but it was Martin who nearly stole the show. The big roach he’d hooked did what a lot of big roach do and slipped the hook at the net! We’ll return to try again though, I’m sure of that.

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Over the last week we’ve finally had a decent bit of rain up here. That meant for my next session I was racing to the Trent straight after work and when I arrived it seemed a few other anglers had thought along the same lines. The good news was that all had caught at least one barbel, so I was hoping for a pull or two!

Just as dusk was falling, my downstream rod banged over and I was playing barbel number one. It was quickly landed and might have weighed between 6-7lbs, but I never weigh these fish. The scales in the photo are just for reference. It was quite a plump fish and in prime Autumn condition.

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Just after this action the ‘Super Moon’ came out from behind the clouds. It was like fishing in daylight and I don’t think it was a coincidence that when it went back behind cloud cover my rod tip banged round again!

The culprit was the twin of the first fish, but straight after I was in again. This time the fish became snagged a few times, but by taking the bail arm off, I kept making contact again and eventually landed a ‘scraper’ double.

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I checked the line for damage and it was just the coated braid that had suffered with a bit of the coating rubbed off here and there. You have to fish tough tackle to fish the boulder strewn Trent. I’d have lost this fish on a standard mono or braided hooklink.

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The moon came out again and lit up the Trent Valley, it also lowered the temperature a lot. Just as I was thinking of calling it a night, I was in again, all four takes coming to the downstream rod. I could feel a grating sensation during the fight so I bullied the fish hard. This time though my luck ran out and the hooklink parted. It’s part and parcel of fishing here which is why I use running rigs and barbless hooks. A fixed rig is just irresponsible, but some anglers still fish like this!! Anyway, after the loss I made my way home.

The temperature had plunged when it came to my day off work, but I still ventured out after a big river pike. It was great fun watching the float, under which a deadbait sat, slowly move away and plunge under the surface a few times. The culprits were always hungry ‘jacks’ but it was good sport all the same, and you never know, the next fish could be a ’20’+!!

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After another bout of warm rain, I just had to see if it had stirred my local river roach into feeding. I shot to the river straight after work and it looked just right. There was a tinge of colour, but the light was failing quickly so it was quiver tipped bread instead of the usual trotted casters. I wasn’t to be disappointed as the tip yanked round on several occasions. The first fish was a new fish for me, a 2lb 1oz redfin, and it was backed up with a few more quality samples.

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The only negative was another lost big roach that would almost certainly given me a brace of ‘2’s

Incidentally, out of all the big roach I’ve caught from the river (11 over 2lbs I think!) and the many around 1.8+, I’ve only ever had 2 recaptures. One was a 2lb+ fish and the other around 1.6. It just shows what a great little river this is.

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Roach Magic and Barbel Blues

After last months bream sessions, I have now moved onto flowing water to try and catch some more of my favourite autumnal fish, barbel and roach. Both species can be caught to specimen sizes close to home so they fit into my working week nicely. If I go straight after work I can usually winkle out a big roach or two, and the same for barbel, though the latter suits me better because I can stay a couple of hours into darkness, probably the most productive time for a big fish.

The rivers I fish, and I suspect most others, are painfully low and clear as I write this and have been for some time. They are in desperate need of some sustained rainfall. The clarity means fish are very easy to spot, but they’ve become very nervous as we move into November. The weed they use for cover is dying off and they are using anything to conceal themselves, especially on the smaller rivers. A seemingly barren river can hold many surprises as fish tuck themselves away into the undercut banks or a tangle of tree roots.

Some of the big roach that I’ve previously caught from my local river are doing such a thing. After a couple of days where I couldn’t spot anything, suddenly half a dozen good fish drifted downstream, out of nowhere, right in front of where I was stood. Even better was most were around the 2lbs mark. As quickly as they came, they vanished again! I couldn’t find them so decided to move on for now and use the clear water to my advantage. I walked a lot of the river to see if any more good roach were about. I wasn’t disappointed.

I found a handful of new shoals which taught me a few good lessons about estimating their sizes. The first shoal I found had me believing I’d found the holy grail of roach, a big shoal of 2lb+ fish, with some looking very big. A quick early morning session seemed to prove my eyes were right, as I landed a couple of beauties well over a pound, with a chunky redfin of 2lbs 2oz topping off the morning. All fell to my trotted casters, they just can’t seem to get enough of them!

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The next day I returned to fish the swim hard. I fed a lot of casters and soon had loads of big roach queueing up for more. They weren’t hard to catch once I’d got them going, but the sizes were a shock. Most were around a pound, give or take a few ounces, but I thought they were all a lot larger. I was puzzled, but carried on catching numbers of good roach to 1lb 9oz, with a few more around the pound and a half mark.

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To start with, I was walking the roach 30 yards upstream before releasing them, but after doing this about 15 times I was getting tired, so I slipped the rest in a keepnet instead. The above photos were snapped on my mobile phone. I kept sending the pictures to Martin at work to tease him! I took so many photos of roach that the battery went flat!

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As I tackled down at dusk, I couldn’t believe how many big roach I’d landed in just a few hours after work. I also couldn’t help being slightly down that all the fish I’d estimated at around 2lbs were just over half of that size. Still, I shouldn’t be complaining in these tough times where if a river roach just reaches adulthood its an achievement.

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After all the roach fun I decided to try for a good barbel. I knew my normal boilie tactics would be hard work until nightfall due to the low clear water, so I tried the particle approach instead. After I had patiently fed a few pints of both hemp and casters into my swim over a couple of hours, I finally made my first cast. Gone were the 12b lines and coated braid hooklinks used in coloured water or at night. In their place was one rod, 8lb main line and a 6ft long, 5lb fluorocarbon bottom, tied to a size 14 hook. Bait was a couple of real casters and a couple of fake ones.

It didn’t take long for the rod tip to crash round, with a manic barbel of around 7 to 8lbs the culprit. I landed it reasonably quickly, despite the light gear, because the flow is almost non existent.

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This process was repeated a few times, including into dark, but none of the barbel were much larger. The best fish was an ounce under 10lbs. One thing what amuses me is how hard these smaller fish fight compared to the double figure fish. They go off like rockets, stripping line from the reels drag, unlike the larger fish that tend to sulk on the bottom before begrudgingly giving up.

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I reverted back to my boilie approach on my next trips, because I believe it singles out the larger barbel. Despite a couple of sessions well into dark, all I could muster was a net full of 5lb bream, plus a few chub, though one of these was more than welcome at 5lbs 9oz.

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The odd big fish is still getting caught though so I shall return, rain or no rain, but for now I decided to concentrate on the roach instead.

On my next roach trip I was joined by a mate. I wasn’t too bothered about fishing on this day because the weather was dire. It was chilly and throwing it down. We went to a new swim where I’d recently spotted some roach and chub. I snuck downstream and saw a few roach, with a couple of belters amongst them. They were very hard to see in the gloomy light though. My mate trotted the swim manfully, despite the dire conditions, and was rewarded with a 4lb+ chub and a chunky roach of around 12oz. A  small pike had launched itself at this roach, but let go, allowing it to be quickly landed.

When the weather was at its worst my mate had had enough, allowing me to take over. It was a bad error as I soon swung in a small roach, which the pike jumped out of the water for! It was certainly a bad tempered or very hungry pike, which was confirmed when I struck into my next fish. I could tell it was a big roach, but knowing the angry ‘esox’ was around, I cranked it quickly to the bank, where I shouted at my mate to quickly land it for me, which he did in the nick of time. The pike had almost stolen my prize in the commotion, a few missing scales being the only damage thankfully.

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The scales gave a weight of 1lb 13oz, not quite a ‘2’ but at least it would get the chance to grow on and possibly attain the ‘special mark’

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The next trip was to a completely new area, and obviously another shoal of good sized roach. Initially I had been fooled. Martin and I saw this shoal on one of our walks and he asked me to check them out when the light was better. This I did, getting them taking my casters freely, but I wrote the sizes off at being around 12oz at the best. I realised I’d cocked up big time when Martin rang me one morning to tell me about his catch of good roach, topped off by a couple of low ‘2’s, from that very swim!!! A few days later, at my first available opportunity, I was in the same swim, landing my own silver bullion with the best two fish of the morning going 2lbs and 1lb 10oz The ‘2’ had certainly been in the wars, but seemed fit and healthy.

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In this catch was another half a dozen roach all between 1.4 and 1.8, plus a number of smaller fish from an ounce upwards, so hopefully there are plenty of roach to be going at for the next couple of seasons.

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I walked the same area the next week, wondering how I could have misjudged the sizes so much. What I saw blew me away. This time I approached on the opposite bank to the one I fished. The roach looked very big, in fact there were a lot of big roach, so many that I have to return soon! To confirm my thoughts, I walked miles so that I could look at the roach from the opposite bank, where this time they again looked 12oz at best! The only thing I can put this down to is that if you’re almost level with the water, the light is bent and makes the fish look smaller, but if you’re on a higher bank, this doesn’t happen as much and the fish look nearer to their true size. That’s what probably confused me with the other shoal where they looked bigger than they were. I suppose the moral is don’t judge the size of any fish you spot, at least until you’ve caught a few!

The only downside to this great roach fishing is the loss of the odd big girl. Tiny hooks and light lines means playing a big redfin in flowing water will always be a nail biting affair and this was proven on the 31st of October. I’d singled out three very large roach in the bright autumn sunshine and managed to get the two I wanted most to take my bait. The first was lost after playing it for 30 seconds or so, without ever getting it close in. The second fish came off after just a few seconds. I don’t know how big they were, both of which would have given me a clear picture of the rivers potential for roach, size wise. As Martin said to me later “You’ve had a nightmare on Halloween” It still hurts, but I try to focus on the good times!

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Dream Bream

Following my patchy results from a month of targeting bream on a large stillwater, I returned with a fresh set of ideas. The first thing to try was to target the water as if I was in a match. I’d still use 2 rods to double my chances of fish finding my bait, but I decided to scale things down bait wise and not spod any bait over the spots where I was fishing.

I also changed the end rigs. I used open end feeders that would have lots of chopped worm in them, plugged with a bit of dry groundbait. All the amino acids of the worms and the cloud of the ground bait would hopefully draw the bream in, but with less food items to feast on, they’d find my hook bait a lot quicker. That hook bait was the tail of a lobworm, a classic bream bait if there ever was one. This was fished on a size 16 hook tied to a 4lb fluorocarbon hook link. Everything was scaled down, but not too much. I wanted to land every fish I hooked.

I started the session by making 10 casts with both rods, just as if in a match. This put a bit of bait on both spots, then I waited for the slabs to hopefully move in on my areas. I was still using alarms and bobbins for bite detection. I didn’t fancy staring at a quiver tip for hours on end then missing a bite when I looked away!

Within 30 minutes the bobbin tightened on my right hand rod and I eased into fish number one. I couldn’t hurry things too much, but bream are hardly the hardest fighters in the British Isles so I was soon landing what looked like a nice fish. I always weight the first decent fish so that I have an idea whether to weigh any more that I may land.  The needle on the scales went to 11lbs, a pleasing start.

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After the good start, a lull in the action followed. I questioned my tactics, though a series of strange bites soon produced the smallest pike I’ve ever caught!

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I kept on casting my feeders every 30 minutes, making sure there was alway fresh bait and attraction going into the swim. Eventually I had another typical bream bite, which produced a young looking bream that I knew wouldn’t make double figures.

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This signalled the start of a hectic period where the bream moved onto my bait. Most of the action was on the right hand rod, but it wasn’t long before I was struggling to keep both rods in the water, regularly getting ‘double hookups’ I didn’t weigh any of these mint conditioned bream, estimating most to be between 8 and 11lbs. I knew the more fish i caught, the better my chance of a larger specimen.

I’d just re cast the left hand rod after yet another ‘slab’, when the next fish probably didn’t even let the worm reach the lake bed. As I pulled the line to sink it, it was pulled back through my fingers as yet another bream fought for freedom. This time it felt a little heavier, but careful playing soon had the fish in landing range. After the customary couple of rolls before giving up, this bream squeezed into the mesh and I knew I’d got a decent specimen.

On the mat I couldn’t believe the girth of this bream. It was as fat as a carp and very deep. It just needed more length to be a true giant.

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After placing her in the sling and getting the weight, the 13lb 2oz reading was a little short of what I thought it would weigh. It was still a cracking specimen, and it looked a young fish too, so it may grow for a few years yet. It also justified my switch in tactics. So much so, that I returned to the lake a few days later to try ‘more of the same’

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For the next trip I had the lake to myself. That might have been down to the fact that there was a chill in the air. The temperature was only 5 degrees in the morning and the lake was wrapped in a heavy mist overcoat. Autumn was definitely on its way and I knew this would probably be my last day after the bream. Some leaves were starting to turn brown and some were falling from the trees. I hoped the bream would feed hard prior to the cooler months, sensing hard times were on the way.

A steady mornings fishing produced a few high single figure slabs. Some were the smallest bream I’d caught from the lake. At least the feeder tactics and baits were getting me a lot more action than the previous months fishing. I just hoped the numbers game would produce a big fish

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A quiet period followed before another bite saw me bending into what felt like a heavy fish. After slowly gaining 60 yards of line, a hefty slab only just squeezed into my 30 inch landing net.

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Again, after weighing her, I was surprised that it only weighed 13lbs 10oz, not that I was complaining. In fact I was chuffed to bits. My tactics had produced a raft of big bream, topped by this specimen.

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I carried on fishing, but again the bream were smaller than average. Even a blind bream found my worm hook bait though, proving how good the worms pulling power is!!

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The last few hours of the session went biteless and it was time to wrap my bream campaign up for another year. I’d had a great few days bream fishing, topping off a good month. I was pleased that I’d changed tactics, adapted, and caught a few quality bream.

I just hope the rest of the Autumn and winter go as much to plan. Now what do I target next. Big river roach or barbel? Oh how I love Autumn!!!

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Is the ‘Method’ the Method?

Late summer into early autumn usually sees me partake in a spot of bream fishing. The fish can probably sense that colder weather is on its way and they seem to feed a bit harder than normal, making them easier to catch.

I set out to catch some big slabs on a large stillwater. I fished my usual tactics of method feeders with a popped up piece of plastic corn on a short hook link. These were fished at around 50 yards out over a bed of spodded particles, comprising of all sorts of goodies, mainly pellets, corn and Vitalin.

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Just a couple of hours into my first trip and my delkim signalled that something had taken a liking to my popped up offering. I was soon easing a lovely bream into my landing net that turned out to be just short of 12lbs, a pleasing start.

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A couple more double figure slabs soon followed, along with a male tench that was over 7lbs, though it doesn’t look like it in the photos!

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All to soon it was time to pack the tackle away and head for home, but I couldn’t wait to return.

I thought following my first day, where I’d located the bream, that the following sessions would be productive. I was wrong. Things were slow and I even had a couple of ‘bream blanks’ though a total blank was salvaged with a small lure rod that was used to cast jigs whenever fry exploded from the surface to escape their attacker. This resulted in a few nice perch and  couple of small pike, but I did lose one pike that looked well into double figures

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I was managing to land the odd good bream to keep my spirits up, but I felt I needed to shake things up a bit and change what had worked for me in the past. When you land bream to just short of 13lbs it makes you question whether you’re doing the right thing, but the odd knock and twitch on the rods suggested fish were in the area though weren’t getting their heads down on my hook baits.

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The thing was other anglers were also struggling, or catching a similar amount to me, but the odd one was catching more than most. If you’re in a match and somebody is regularly catching more than you, you either copy what they’re up to or try to make things happen in you’re own peg. I vowed to return in a few weeks time and try a different tactic to try and fool the big slabs into gorging on my baits!

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Bronze and Silver, But No Gold!

Angling press reports suggested that a few decent barbel were coming out of the River Trent, so after finishing work I drove the 40 minutes or so to a stretch on the ‘Middle River’ I would be joined later by a mate so I tried to fish an area where we could fish next to each other. This meant I settled into a couple of pegs that I’d not fished before, but they seemed like they’d seen little angling pressure.

I fished my usual tactics, trying not to catch loads of fish, but just the odd big one. Very little feed and big hook baits were the orders of the day. I lost a barbel straight after starting, to a hook pull, probably because I was using barbless hooks. I don’t normally use them, but I was expecting a few bream to show up in the night. Unhooking them would be far simpler using the barbless patterns I thought, but I do seem to lose the odd barbel on them.

Not very long after this, the tip started banging and bucking, but the lack of line peeling from the bait runner gave me a clue to the culprit, a decent chub around 4lbs or so in weight. That meant I’d avoided the dreaded blank. Twenty minutes or so later a ‘3 foot twitch’ left me in no doubt what my second fish of the night was. A barbel took a few yards of line, before plodding around sulking in the flow. That usually means a larger than average barbel has taken the bait. I quickly bullied it under the rod tip where it came into the beam of my head torch. At this point, my mate Matt and I, tried our best to knock it off the hook with the landing net! It was tricky landing it in the shallow, rock strewn water, but despite our attempts, we soon had the barbel resting in the net.

I had no Idea of the size until I tried to lift it on the mat. I could tell then it would go well over double figures. When it was laid on the mat l could see an immaculate bronze summer barbel. Almost scale and fin perfect, it seemed criminal to bundle her into a weigh sling. I did just that though and the scales read 12lbs 12oz, a lovely start to my Trent barbel campaign and a fish that will certainly be over 13lbs in the Autumn.

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After the barbel the only action was from bream. They were lovely chunky bream of over 5lbs in weight. You could hardly call them a ‘nuisance’, but all too soon the sky started filling with light as a hot day was about to begin.

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After a quick trip home to swap my tackle, I walked my local river before the sun became too hot. Under some bushes I could spot the odd big roach and I just had to try for them.

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Steady feeding of casters soon had a shoal of roach darting about for freebies and a few of them looked 2lbs or more. Unfortunately I caught their smaller shoal mates of around 12oz – 1lb, but they were stunning chunky roach which looked like they had been freshly minted from silver and ruby’s.

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I kept persevering though, and just as the sun was becoming too warm, I hooked into a very large roach. It instantly dived for the weed, but steady pressure did it’s job and turned her. It looked like I was winning the battle when a stray piece of floating weed wrapped around the line. This gave the roach the opportunity it needed and as it boiled on the surface the hook pinged free. All I could do was watch a big old roach sulk into the weed beds, not to be seen again.

There went the golden end to my day, but being so close to home I was soon back for tea and medals. Bloody roach fishing!

Summer Stalking

I know I said I wouldn’t return to my local river roach hot spot until the Autumn, but after a walk down the river I was bursting to get back.

The reason is the river is so low and clear, it’s made fish spotting very easy. I walked past an area that I haven’t fished before whilst showing a mate around the river. It was well away from where I have caught all my other big roach in the past. Because of the low water, almost 90% of the river can be discounted for holding good fish, which just leaves the slightly deeper pools to explore. In one such pool, surrounded by thick weed, there was a shoal of roach, probably consisting of about 15 in number. Most were in the 10oz to 1lb+ size, but a handful looked around 2lbs. What really caught my eye though was the roach that was about 4 inches longer than the 2lb fish! What it weighed I didn’t dare to guess, but it was a massive roach and I had to return to catch it.

On my return the roach were nowhere to be seen. It was like a different river. After feeding casters into the weed, a few average sized chub came out to feed, along with one modest sized roach. I tried to catch the roach using my crystal dibber float tactics, with a caster on the hook and was soon rewarded with the roach which was about 14oz.

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This confirmed that my size estimates were about right so I patiently carried on feeding casters, hoping to lure the roach from wherever they were hiding.

Fast forward another hour and I’d almost given up. The swim now had 12 mad chub whizzing everywhere for my casters, when I spotted another roach that had simply appeared like magic! It wasn’t the big girl but looked around 2lbs so I was going to try and catch it. The hard part was getting it away from the chub. I noticed from time to time it would come close in to look for any ‘shells’ it had missed so I waited with my float rig over that spot. I’d gotten myself all ‘cammo’d’ up to avoid spooking the fish and this paid off when it came under my nose with no ‘bodyguard’ chub. I lowered the rig straight in front of her and she rose in the water to sip the caster in on the drop.

When I struck, all hell broke loose as the redfin thrashed about on the surface like a trout before diving for the weed beds. I went to give it a bit of line, but I’d managed to get the line looped around the handle! What a mistake, but luckily it didn’t cost me as everything held and I bundled another mint, specimen roach into the waiting net.

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The second I managed to isolate the roach from the chub, it took the bait without hesitation. That told me these fish were hardly, if ever, fished for. I just needed to find it’s big sister now!

A few hours later and the writing was on the wall. The majority of the big roach were hiding either in the weed, or another area of river. I’ll just have to return from time to time to see if they make another showing.

I consoled myself with catching some of the chub. It was the easiest fishing I’ll do, though the battles were great with the surrounding weed beds and light tackle. Most chub were the long, torpedo shape and I’d estimate them all at 4lbs and above.

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The best weighed 4lbs 15oz until I landed a very deep stocky fish that pulled the needle of the scales well past the 5lbs mark. A very big chub for these parts and it was most welcome.

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I think the final tally was 12 – 2 in my favour for chub landed to those lost, which was a great days fishing even without the roach. That’s over 50lbs of fish in a short session. I’d have never believed it if you said I’d be making catches like this 20 years ago. The only sad thing, in my opinion, is the river is basically a chub river these days rather than a roach river, probably thanks to the cormorants. Still, there are still specimen roach to be found. Lets hope that will always be the case.

 

Roach Magic

I’ve done very little fishing over the last few weeks, but this has been down to choice rather than not having any spare time.

Firstly, I noticed some of the chub I was catching were still in spawning mode. Maybe they were going for round 2 of spawning, or perhaps the ‘average’ spring weather had delayed their annual orgy a little later than normal.

Secondly, we then had some very warm weather. Internet reports were of fish, especially barbel, taking a long time to recover after catching them. I’d rather leave the fishing alone in such circumstances. Giving them a short break from angling pressure is sensible in my view while conditions aren’t the best for well oxygenated water.

I suppose the above also shows what a mockery the current river closed season is. If we’re going to have one, surely mid April to mid July will be better for the majority of coarse fish. And on the same subject, why do the EA cut weed in many rivers during the month of June? All those fish eggs and newly hatched fry seeking shelter in that weed will be simply washed away. No wonder the same EA have to stock hundreds of thousands more fish into those same rivers. I think it’s bizarre!!

Anyway, onto my fishing session. Big roach were the target and they were clearly visible in the crystal clear water on a local river. My loose fed casters and crystal dibber float approach soon had the shoal waiting for more free offerings and it was a case of picking the larger fish out of the shoal.

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The first fish was around a pound and had an unusual gold tinge to it. It was certainly a pure roach, just a slightly strange colour!

It was soon followed by another cracker, this time around double the size. It hadn’t quite filled out yet after spawning, but was still a stunning impressive specimen roach. I never tire of catching and seeing these impressive fish

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A short while later I was into big roach number 3. This fish, also around the 2lbs mark, came to the top, thrashed around and the tiny hook pinged out! Disaster, but the kind of thing that happens to every big roach angler. It’s part of the thrill of catching them, hoping the tiny hook holds.

After that loss, the fish became nervous and a couple of quick, tentative, missed bites were all that followed. Never mind, I’d had another cracking big roach session, but I won’t be back until they start to fill out again in the Autumn.

Small River Barbel

Well, after all the fish spotting I did prior to the ‘Glorious 16th’ true to form, the heavens opened and the rivers rose, turning a murky brown colour in the process! Having taken the  16th off work, I wasn’t going to waste it and set out to catch a barbel or two, instead of my intended target of rudd. I just thought with the conditions as they were, the barbel would be the better option. I met my mate Martin on the bank and we would share the opening morning as we have done many times in the past.

My fish spotting sessions would serve us both well though and we headed to a small local river, where I’d seen and fed a number of barbel a few weeks earlier. My tackle couldn’t have been much simpler. I used an Avon style rod with the quiver tip section in place. 6lbs line was then threaded straight through to a size 10 hook. I had an inline 1oz bomb about a foot above the hook, kept in place with a BB shot. On the hook I had 2 rubber casters, not hair rigged, and for feed, I trickled in hemp and casters under my feet.

I knew the barbel would come from good distances to the sounds and smells of my casters and sure enough, the tip wrenched round minutes after casting in and I was soon looking at barbel number one. It had a strange reddish colour to it’s lower half, but it was in fighting fit condition and gave a good account of itself.

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After lowering my rig back into the margins, 15 minutes later I was doing battle with barbel number two. This was soon bundled into my waiting net where I realised it was a bit weighty, so I thought I’d see what it went on the scales.

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It went 7lbs 15oz, which is a new river PB for me, well to be honest it’s the first barbel that I’ve weighed from the river! I used to target them in this particular area a decade ago, but back then they were too small to bother weighing. It seems they are growing nicely these days! It did have an unusual mark on one of its flanks. I don’t know if anyone knows what could have caused it?

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The other side was a lot better

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I carried on trickling my casters in the edge, having the odd bite from smaller fish, which thanks to my rubber casters I could just ignore, knowing I still had bait on the hook. After another short wait the tip banged round again and barbel number three was charging off down stream. With very little weed and no snags in the river, it was just a formality in getting it to the net, where I managed to bundle it in at the 4th attempt! As I went to lift the net out I realised why. It was a pretty heavy barbel and a bit too big for my landing net, I thought the one I’d brought would have been more than appropriate, but I’d misjudged the size of barbel in the river.

This fish pulled the needle on my scales round to the 10lbs mark exactly. I know it sounds ‘dodgy’ when a weight is bang on ‘the dot’ But it is what it is, and it was witnessed by a passing angler.

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I decided to pack up and head to see how Martin was faring. I knew he’d already taken a few chub to ounces under 5lbs, trotting casters under a stick float. These are cracking chub for this time of year as they are generally very lean after spawning, but I was feeling smug as I’d have the bragging rights for the day. My smugness was soon shattered by seeing Martin holding a larger barbel well over 10lbs!! He’d caught it on his chub gear and had no chance of getting it in his match style landing net. Luckily for him a passing angler lent a hand, and his landing net, before taking the photos too! What a fish for a tiny river!

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It wasn’t long before I was back to the same river, this time trotting for chub. I was hoping for some of the near 5lb fish that Martin had caught, but the best I caught was 4lbs 7oz. It was a fantastic days fishing though, stood in the water, teasing a stick float down to a shoal of chub. I had 15 good chub and plenty of others in the 1 – 2lb range. I even caught a baby barbel, my first of this size

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I’ve caught smaller barbel before, like gudgeon, but those were freshly stocked fish, on the Trent in the late 80s, probably the same big fish what we are catching today.

After a few hours trotting for those chub I’d had enough. I couldn’t lift the keep net out I’d caught so many so I put them all back, saving a couple in the bottom for a photo of the average stamp of young and old fish.

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One chub had a worrying wound. Again, I have no idea what’s caused this? It was a lumpy fish, but very lean after spawning.

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After the chub session, I waited until the river cleared to have some more barbel fun. This time, in the clear water, I could watch them feeding and my swim was soon a writhing mass of barbel, literally doing cartwheels to take my casters. I reckon if I’d have put my casters on the bank they’d have climbed out to eat them!

I waited for an hour before lowering my rig, the same as mentioned earlier, into the feeding barbel. Within 20 minutes I’d caught 5 fish and had more than enough fun for one day. If you are patient and get the barbel feeding and competing before casting in, catching them is a formality. What was good was observing them in the clear water. The way they feed, the way they take the bait, move in and out of the swim, plus many more things. I caught an old friend and a couple of chunky fish over 8lbs in weight. It really is a cracking barbel river and my swim was still full of feeding fish when I’d had enough.

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Treading Water, Blanks, Bits and Bobs

As I write this I feel like I’m treading water until the 16th of June, when we can fish the rivers and drains again. My local rivers (most within walking distance from my house) are perfect for spending the odd hour or more chasing all kinds of species. I’m still spending most of my spare time putting wardrobes, beds and plenty of other things together in one house and clearing another out, but I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. All these chores are very frustrating because at this time of year I’d love to be trying for a few tench, preferably with a whopper or two sprinkled amongst them! I have managed a few trips to the fishing bank though, including another blank chasing tench in deepest Oxfordshire.

I had a few spare days where nothing needed doing so I headed to the Linear complex of gravel pits. I wanted to catch a few tench, but I knew my old mate Dai Gribble was there so it would be nice just to catch up with him again. As per usual, I never had a sniff of a tench, but had a good catch up with fellow Tenchfisher Dai, and a few other anglers.

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I can’t wait for ‘Tench Time’ next year, I’ve had nothing but bad luck with the species for a few years. There’s a big head of good tench in the Linear waters, but in the handful of trips I’ve had there, I’m yet to hook a tench! I’ve caught big roach from both Hardwick and St Johns lakes while after tincas, but I try to catch those in the cooler months.

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This time I fished on Manor Lake, but it was dead for the time i was there so I came home after 24 hours. Even Dai managed only one fish from Oxlease Lake and he can catch big tench out of his bath! There was a good number of fish caught on Oxlease for those in the right pegs, but a change in the wind saw them drift away to the other side of the lake, where carp anglers were already fishing. And there lies the problem with fishing busy waters like Linear. Quite often you can see fish, but the place is so busy you can’t get close to them. This makes me wonder where to have next years campaign. Last years ticket gave me access to big tench which were in 3 large pits, but they were tough fishing, though there was always plenty of space from which to fish. There were also a few smaller pits where numbers of quality tench could be caught. Now you can see why it’s appealing!

Sywell is always special to me and is another option. I haven’t fished there for 7 years, and it’s tougher than ever, so I’ve heard, but there’s still some good tench to be caught from the place. The big attraction, for me at least, is that it’s almost devoid of anglers. If you see a tench roll you can move to it, or if a favourable wind is blowing into one bank, again, you can move there. While I was fishing Sywell my tench PB increased every season until it levelled out at 9lb 12oz.

Almost a double!

I caught quite a few 9lb+ tench from there, but always had to stop tench fishing towards the end of May as I was playing cricket a few days every week. With 20 / 20 hindsight I wish I’d carried on fishing into June as the tench bulked up and went over the magic 10lbs mark, but I didn’t realise just how tough the fishing would get. I always thought they’d be there in reasonable numbers.

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At least I should have more fishing time next year, because you can’t catch if you don’t fish! I did avoid the blank at Manor with a jack pike getting my hopes up by snaffling my worm! The swine also helped me make my decision to come home as on release, he thrashed hard and did a 360 degree back flip, but catching my fingers with his teeth in the process! A nasty gash was the result that wouldn’t stop bleeding, and it stung a bit too!

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The rest of the days were spent walking the banks of local rivers and that’s why I can’t wait for the 16th. The water was crystal clear in all 4 of the rivers that I walked. Most of the water was devoid of fish, a far cry from years ago when there were numerous roach and gudgeon to be found in all areas. I did see some fish that almost made me want to get the ‘shad’ gear out and start straight away!

I saw 4 shoals of big roach, small in numbers, but there were enough around the 2lbs mark to make my pulse quicken! I saw big dace that I never knew existed in one river and lots of chub with what looked like some very special ones. I was in an area that was so overgrown it’s probably never been fished. You can’t park nearby and its a job just to get to the river. When I got there I thought I saw a carp, but realised it was a chub! I don’t know how big it was because I don’t see too many big chub, never mind get to hook them so I can get a good idea of the size. All I can guess is it must be 6lbs at least, but hopefully larger! Despite me having bushes for cover and it not seeing me it was very skitty. It definitely knew I was there. Soon it was joined by 4 shoal mates and they looked a good size too. They all acted nervously so I think they’ll be tough to catch. It’ll be fun trying though!

I also saw large perch in 3 rivers so I’ll have to try for those. Again, some were miles off the beaten track, but these look like they’ll be far easier to catch. I thought I saw the mother of all roach, but I’m pretty sure it was a roach bream hybrid, though it will have to be checked out.

There were a few shoals of small to medium sized roach in 3 of the rivers too, which hopefully bodes well for the future. They were sunning themselves close to the surface, but behind one shoal lurked a dark assassin!

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This photo was taken with my camera phone, but I might venture out with my normal camera if we get a nice sunny day when I’m off work. It’s nice to see quality fish in clear water and i’d like to take quality photos of them too.

The only other fishing I’ve been doing is the odd evening on the local canal. I’ve just been fishing a small ground bait feeder packed with goodies and casting it halfway across. In just a couple of hours you can catch some lovely bream to over 4lbs as well as the odd silver bream and roach. Time prevents me from trying to get the full potential of fishing from this canal, but there are special fish to be caught.

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My mate Martin caught roach to 1.9 last year and I’ve heard of a few ‘2’s so that’s a possible target. I had a go for big roach in the canal a few years ago, but only caught them to around a pound, but I did only give it one evening!

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The chub grow big in the canal too. 7lb fish have been caught in the past, with a few ‘6’s reported. I’ve had the odd pleasure session after chub and have landed a number of 4lb fish and the odd one of 5lbs. Again, I don’t fish here half as much as I should, and most of the canal is neglected these days.

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Simple wagler and caster tactics produce most of the chub and roach. A lovely way to catch quality fish.

I might have the odd evening on the canal before the rivers and drains are fishable again, but hopefully I’ll be reporting some good fish on this page in the near future. I’ve put the leg work in and located some lovely specimens. Lets hope I can catch them, I can’t wait!

 

 

 

 

All sorts From The Cut (And A Big Surprise!)

Finally, I’ve managed to find a few afternoons and a couple of spare days to wet a line. I didn’t want to travel far, so I fished lobworms on one of my local ‘cuts’ hoping for a big perch or two.

My tackle and bait was the same as it’s always been. 4lb line straight through to a size 8 to 12 hook, depending on how finicky the fish are. I use a small 2 Swan shot paternoster some 3 feet above the hook and bait is always the ever reliable lobworm. That’s as simple as it gets. I use light bobbins combined with alarms for bite indication. That way I can scan the water looking for fish activity, without missing any bites.

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I was worried I may be too late for the perch, as prior to spawning they seem to shut up shop and vanish. The first evening was promising though as I landed a perch of 2lb 11oz as well as a very fat bream that was almost 6lbs

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After that promising start though, it soon became apparent that I was too late for a big perch as my bobbins danced to the bites from all kinds of fish. Roach, bream, silver bream, roach x bream hybrids and lots of smaller perch all took a liking to my juicy lobworm hook baits

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I also caught a few of those rarest of fish from a South Yorkshire canal……Sea trout!! That’s right, I caught 3 sea trout and I know mates who were fishing the same water caught a few of these too!! How strange.

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The biggest problem has been the amount of jack pike that take the worms. I’ve not encountered these before on worms, but everybody was getting plagued by them this season. There must be a good head of them in the canal. Lets hope the balance of predators isn’t shifting from big perch to lots of small pike.

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On my last attempt for a big perch, in mid April, I sat biteless until well into the afternoon when a dog walker shouted over from the far bank. He told me there was a big pike sat in the margins on his side of the canal. When I enquired how big, he said it was ‘as big as his dog’…..which was a labrador!!! When perch fishing I always have a lure rod stashed in my holdall, so I reeled the worms in and went to the far side of the canal to see if I could catch this ‘dog’ of a pike. After 30 minutes of flinging my lures everywhere, I’d not seen ‘the’ pike, or any pike. I’d not had a follow or anything. I wondered if I’d been had or not!

I returned to base and carried on with the worm fishing and caught some perch around a pound plus a nice chunky roach. In the warm weather and clear water, a carp could be seen cruising over my baited areas and it looked a good size too. As the light faded and I struck into a jerky bite, I thought this is what I was attached too, as it was a lump of a fish that I couldn’t do much with. It stayed deep and every time I got it close in, it would power off to the other side of the canal. After this process had been repeated 3 times, it came to the surface on the far side where I spotted the shape of a pike. Thinking I was playing one of the troublesome ‘jacks’ I gave it all the 4lb line could give, but I was struggling to do much with it.

Eventually, after a good few minutes, a very fat pike squeezed into my 30 inch landing net, complete with my lobworm hooked in the scissors of its jaw! It was here that things went a bit strange. I thought I saw another fin in a strange place on the pike. It was only when I tried to lift the net all hell broke loose. There were actually 3 pike in my net! A quick inspection revealed a couple of red, battered looking males that must have stuck to the female, during the fight, like glue! I was gobsmacked and could only just lift the net out of the water.

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I quickly weighed the males before putting them straight back. This was because I’ve heard it said that they don’t usually weigh much more than 6lbs. These males went 5.14 and 8lb 1oz, so I suppose thats not bad for a male pike (I think)

Then I weighed the big girl before taking 2 quick photos. She went 20lbs 15oz which is a cracking pike from a canal, although I didn’t catch it how I’d have liked to. I wonder if it was the pike that was “as big as a dog” It was certainly fat enough.

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And with that fantastic, but bizarre capture, my perch season is over (I think) and it’s time to target other fish and take on new challenges. I’ll leave you with one last photo of a silver bream and a roach x bream hybrid, as many people confuse the pair for each other. After catching both on my worms, I couldn’t resist taking this photo, though the fading light makes the subtle differences harder to spot.

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